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Home Page > Aromatherapy Article Archive > Aromatherapy and Anosmia

Aromatherapy and Anosmia (Loss of the Sense of Smell)

Aromatherapy and AnosmiaEvery so often, I receive emails from individuals with anosmia (the loss of the sense of smell) asking if aromatherapy can help them. I'm pleased to finally add an article on the subject...

When safely and sensibly practiced, holistic aromatherapy may benefit those with anosmia because essential oils offer an array of therapeutic benefits that span beyond their aromatic properties.

Essential oils are comprised of an array of naturally occurring constituents like esters, oxides, alcohols, phenols and aldehydes. Without giving you a full lesson in chemistry, let's use Roman Chamomile Essential Oil and Lavender Essential Oil as quick examples. Lavender Essential Oil contains 40% linalyl acetate and Roman Chamomile Essential Oil contains 35% isobutyl angelate. [E. Joy Bowles, The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils (NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2003), 192-195.] Both linalyl acetate and isobutly angelate are esters. Esters are said to offer noteworthy anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. You may haven noticed that both oils are common ingredients in recipes intended for relaxation and insomnia. Some essential oils, by way of the natural chemical constituents they contain, are said to be naturally anti-bacterial or antiviral. All essential oils possess their own unique combination of constituents that make particular oils naturally well suited for one application or another.

Not all essential oils, however, are safe to in holistic aromatherapy no matter how "nice" (or "not-so-nice") they smell. Mugwort and Wormwood Essential Oils, for example, are generally avoided and considered hazardous oils within the field of holistic aromatherapy because they contain significant concentrations of ketones including thujone. Thujone is reported to potentially cause convulsions and liver damage. [Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety (United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone, 1995), 199.] Of course, method of usage can play a part, but it's more sensible to stick with using essential oils that are generally regarded to be safer.

The naturally occurring constituents described in the above two paragraphs don't specifically rely on a person's sense of smell. Smoking is a bad habit and nicotine is harmful, but it makes for a decent analogy. Even though you may not be able to smell the tobacco or the smoke, the nicotine in the tobacco, once inhaled, is still absorbed into the bloodstream. The same when inhaling the aroma of essential oils (or applying essential oils after careful dilution onto your skin). You might not be able to benefit from the aroma of the essential oils, but the natural constituents (much like the nicotine in tobacco), can still enter the bloodstream.

A concern I have for those with anosmia is that it can be easy to accidentally use essential oils in excess. If you have anosmia and want to use essential oils, be especially careful to follow all safety precautions and stick with safe usage guidelines for the blends and recipes that you create. Be sure to properly dilute essential oils that you apply to your skin and avoid oils that can cause sensitization.

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